I came across this really interesting article in the Times Higher Education (THE). I really went to see the owl wearing glasses but then stopped to read. I agree with parts of it and disagree with others, surely there is an alternative?
Yes, I agree with John S. Wilkins that universities have strayed from their initial purpose and I am very sorry that there is very little “wisdom” in our universities any more. Students and lecturers are very focused on the final outcome – the degree qualification – this is not necessarily bad. At the very least students learn how to concentrate, learn how to read a book or journal and extract the information they need. That’s more than most of them can do when they arrive. I would love to see our students learning philosophy, english and history as part of their degrees but there is not the time. Teaching students how to do something and why they have to do it that particular way is the best we can hope for. Equipping them with some ability to make informed judgements when they are caught in novel situations is our highest aim (for undergraduates).
Some of the problems arise simply because there are so many students in HE these days. We no longer have our own rooms that we teach in and every room in the university is booked for particular times. There is no possibility to carry on an interesting conversation because we have to vacate the room in time for the next class. As a result, by the time students graduate they do, “emerge, blinking at the realization that it qualifies you to do exactly nothing” (Chris Moore). I do believe though that with modern technologies we can start to reverse this situation.
We now have a much better understanding of how Open Educational Resources can be used. People who are considering coming to university can use the OER to acquire basic knowledge and skills they will need when they come to university. Part of that basic knowledge and skills should be philosophy, language and history related to the particular discipline(s) they are interested in. This is what lifelong learning is about. It’s not just about learning when you retire, it’s about learning all through your life, even between the intensive bits of learning in institutions.
Virtual Worlds and Virtual Reality are now available to us for helping students to learn how to deal with the difficult situations, the death, the haemorrhage, etc and through the immersive experience learn how to understand and cope with how they feel and how they react in these situations. We can support our students when they are faced with a dreadful philosophical conundrum because we are there with them in the virtual experience.
Online f2f tutorials provide an opportunity to carry on the interesting discussions that would normally have occurred in the tutorial room or the lecture hall. Now we can even take our cameras outside and talk to our class-mates – we can create a sort of virtual field trip, etc, etc. The only limit is your imagination.
Please everyone start using your imagination!